We seem to be committed to a counterinsurgency campaign on behalf of a government than can’t govern. I’ve seen this movie before, and didn’t like the ending.
I don’t have a strong view on what to do in Afghanistan. Â Losing seems like a lousy option. But even accepting for the purposes of argument that it’s a “war of necessity,” necessity does not imply feasibility. Â If the Karzai regime can’t put on a credible show of governing, will putting more boots on the ground do anything but stir up nationalistic resentment? We seem to be committed to a counterinsurgency campaign on behalf of a government that can’t govern. I’ve seen this movie before, and I didn’t like the way it ended.
The figure that keeps bugging me is that our annual expenditure in Afghanistan is several times the Afghan GDP. Â If I were in charge, I’d be thinking very hard about the mechanics of handing out enough cash – the way I figure it, something like $4b/yr. – to abolish poverty in every part of Afghanistan not under Taliban control.
Author: Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out.
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken)
When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993)
Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989)
View all posts by Mark Kleiman
6 thoughts on “Hamid van Thieu?”
What, pray tell, is "losing" if not continuing to squander treasure and blood in a country where the missiles we're using cost more than the (few) remaining targets and every strike seems to do little other than produce more hatred of the US, who has now replaced the Soviet Union in the role of Imperial Power Sinking into The Afghan Dust While Bleeding Profusely?
Why in God's name do you think China, Russia, and Iran all stay pretty quiet about our role in Afghanistan? It's because they are loving it, and hope we continue to see things in terms of "winning" and "losing" for another 20 years.
But that's just WELFARE! No, we must keep bombing and killing people. It's the only moral thing to do. It's a matter of principal.
But really, you are right Mark. It will be cheaper and more effective to buy the country than fight for it. Give those boots already on the ground hammers and saws and start building schools, roads and health clinics. Any money handed out should go directly to the recipients, otherwise it will end up in some warlord's treasure chest or pol's swiss bank account. Winning hearts and minds the old fashioned way: Buy them.
I absolutely agree that Afghanistan will not end up favorable for the US even if McChrystal gets his 40,000+ troops, because the overriding issue is that the Karzai administration, to the extent that there is such a thing, is too corrupt.
The problem with your proposal of 'buying' the country instead of fighting for it does seem to suffer from the same problem though. I have heard estimates that of the $30 billion plus made available by donor countries so far, only something like $3 billion actually arrived on the ground.
Isn't one of the core problems of the corruption in the Karzai government that there is already so much money being channeled through it and that people in the administration, or affiliated with it like Hamid's dear brother, therefore have such ample opportunity to enrich themselves?
My point is that IF we are obligated to try to save Afghanistan it would be cheaper and MORE effective to put our money into public works and financial aid than to enforce our will with guns and bombs. Truth be known the whole mess seems like the proverbial rat hole to me but when did that ever stop America from rushing in where angels fear to tread. It certainly would be better to do good things and make friends while we spend our grandchidrens' livelyhood.
Public works projects are hard, and subject to the same corruption problem that makes everything else impossible. I'd work on ways of giving cash directly to individuals.
Suppose we just gave significant amounts of hard curency to each battalion commander so he or she can directly to farmers and buy their opium and/or marijuana crop. This would eliminate some government corruption and deny the crop to the Taliban. My guess it would encourage more production of those crops however by buying direct it might still be cheaper than giving billions directly to the govenment and various contractors.
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